Monday, May 20, 2013

Deadlands, Part XXXVI

When last we left our heroes, they ascended the tower, got into a gunfight, cut the Father in half, met Ollie, and encountered Cobb, learning that the device necessary to control the city is around The Doctor's neck.

And we left off with the heroes sighting down a bridge toward The Doctor riding atop an automaton dinosaur.

While Father Seward is grumbling and regenerating, the group notices two pterodactyl automata flying machines nearby.  Rufina quickly searches Father Seward and takes his revolver and one gatling pistol, leaving him with another gatling pistol (so that he can defend himself, but so that he is somewhat handicapped with an unfamiliar gun should Nathaniel be in charge).  The group decides to take the two flying machines over to The Doctor and his Tyrannosaurus rex vehicle.

Ollie, Rex, and David jump in one such vehicle.  Rufina leaves Father Seward behind, but takes Ruby with her.  Ollie and Rufina manage take-off without any issues.

As Rufina cautiously flies toward The Doctor, planning her move, Ollie zooms toward the creature with abandon.  At quite a distance, Rex pulls out his gatling pistols and leans over the side, firing round after round at the T. rex device.  The Doctor returns fire with mounted gatling guns, but mostly misses.

In seconds, several well-placed shots from Rex have pierced the T. rex's boiler, causing the whole thing to explode in a sickly green mushroom cloud.  The trio is fairly certain they see something fly out of the vessel — vaguely man-shaped, perhaps? — and land in some nearby debris.

Meanwhile, Father Seward awakens.  Noting none of his companions nearby and only one gatling pistol, he starts along the bridge toward the flame-spewing T. rex.  And then it explodes.

With no need to approach The Doctor's odd vehicle, Rufina and Ruby turn around to retrieve Father Seward and investigate the occurrences on the streets below.  After a brief exchange — Rufina is still wary of the reanimated priest, and Father Seward is still rather confused as the last thing he recalls is being penetrated by several rounds from an automaton's gatling gun — Father Seward climbs aboard the pterodactyl and Rufina returns his guns to him.

Rufina pilots the pterodactyl out over the city, as she and Ruby heard commotion below.  Once over the street, they see a gunfight among several persons.  It appears that several armed gunmen are covering the Duchess while she performs some mystical working.  Cobb is on the other side of the street, slinging spells.  Father Seward and Ruby both take shots at the Duchess and miss, allowing her to complete her rune carving.  Her entire group turns to sand and blows away.

Father Seward, seeing an opportunity, takes aim at Cobb, but an impulse from the thing inside him prevents him from pulling the trigger.

Meanwhile, Ollie lands the pterodactyl next to the debris where The Doctor's body fell.  The whole area is enveloped in a cloud of green gas.  David and Rex take deep breaths and charge in.  David unfortunately takes in a lungful or two of the foul air, but they manage to find the control rod around The Doctor's neck and return to the pterodactyl.

They also note enough of The Doctor's remains to see a clear, glass insert with synthetic pumps where his heart would be.

The two groups meet again on the bridge and take the elevator to the control room.  Apart from the corpses of constables and the charred remains of Mr. Thane, the only notable object is a central console.  A hole appears to be where The Doctor's key would fit.

After some discussion, Rufina decides to go investigate.  She places the device in the hole, and is immediately enveloped in a rotating, spherical cage of metal.  A second, smaller, solid sphere rises from the floor into the middle of the cage.  As Rufina seems to be suffering no discomfort, despite the strange devices arrayed around her, the group does not move to stop her.  Announcing her attentions to the group, she touches the sphere.  A strange electricity moves from the sphere to her hand.  The same occurs with her metal hand.

When she places both hands at once, however, she is suddenly in tune with the city.  She senses the city as an extension of herself, and can mold its substance at will.  She starts experimenting, getting used to the sensation before the group discusses how to make Morrow's "copper pot."

Which prompts David and Rex to descend to get Morrow.  Once they hit the ground floor, they see a large box covered in papers.  A body lies atop the box, while a second is slumped next to it.  Jeb's remains lie nearby.

The box is covered in shipping manifests and such that mark it as a shipment from Richmond, no doubt one of Brent Manning's shipments.  One of the papers is a map, showing a map of Sweet Water and the nearby landmark, with a red "X" drawn on a nearby hill.  The body atop the box is Manning's solicitor, dead, clutching a single rose to his breast.  The slumped body is Morrow's, evidently alive.  The box contains, among other things, the last few remaining firearm components the group was attempting to smuggle into the city.  David and Rex heft Morrow back onto the lift and return to the control room.

Once returned, the group describes what they saw, and awakens Doctor Morrow.  After some discussion of how to make their escape, Doctor Morrow explains that one person would have to remain behind to work the device.  Rufina and Father Seward both describe the possibility, but Doctor Morrow volunteers, explaining that they appear to be somehow important to the strange events transpiring.  He does, however, ask that they have pie on his birthday, in remembrance.

Rufina leaves the rotating cage and Doctor Morrow enters.  He then opens a slide beneath the group, depositing them in the room with the two pterodactyls.  The group mounts the flying machines and flies away from the city.

Flying away, they see the metallic membrane form over the city, entombing it forever.

The group heads for the marked hill, and sure enough, finds Cobb standing upon it, smoking a cigarette.

The pterodactyls land, and words are exchanged.  Ruby asks why Cobb killed the solicitor, and Cobb (in his typical, mildly sardonic and ironic fashion) indicates it was to save her marriage, particularly for the well-being of her unborn child.

He proceeds to explain what little he can about current circumstances, as he has wiped our memories for mutual safety (this is, as he says, the third time we've had this conversation).  Evidently, whatever foe against whom we have arranged ourselves — Cobb does not expressly say — did not know we were allied with Cobb up until now, and can read our thoughts as Cobb can.

Cobb explains that Hell thrives on fear, and if the engine under Sweet Water overheated, it would send a toxic cloud across the United States and the world, and the collective fear and despair would send the world tumbling into Hell.  Since fear is a such a powerful weapon, it is necessary to keep fear under control — David Hood, for example, has been keeping people at ease with his newspaper columns.

When asked, Cobb also indicates that the Mandragora's connection to other worlds allows her to thin the veil between Earth and Hell, allowing demons to appear in the form of dead loved ones.  The "ghosts" seen were actually demons, and given enough power, would start manipulating people to evil ends.

Regarding this whole mess, Cobb, for his part, does not want the world to fall into Hell, as his current mortal state would leave him quite unable to deal with whatever his former subjects have in store for him.

Cobb indicates that he has been trying to close the gate he opened, and to prevent any more demons from getting through.  He has subsequently learned that a blessed soul — someone with a direct channel to God, like Father Seward — is necessary to help close the rift.  (Incidentally, he notes that the Duchess has a direct channel to the Infernal, and is currently more in tune with the energies of Hell than Cobb himself.)  He indicates that the next stop on the group's list is likely Louisiana so that they can gather the necessary components to stop Goleb of the Unholy Sephiroth — evidently, many of the memories from the moon jar feature memories relating to the Unholy Sephiroth, and David Hood's absorbed memory features someone burying or exhuming a piece of Goleb on a Louisiana plantation.

When they inquire about what they were doing in Texas, he dissuades them from that avenue of inquiry, indicating that he dealt with the matter already with another group.

Father Seward also asks about his daughter, and Cobb indicates that she is dead (which theoretically contradicts what Silas said a few months back, although Seward isn't about to take the former Prince of Lies on his own word).  He further indicates that he wanted to take Father Seward at first, because he thought he needed the blood of a Seward — assuming the connection was somehow physical — rather than the living presence of Father Seward himself.  He has since learned, however, that Father Seward (or another blessed clergyman) must ultimately forgive Cobb so that he can close the rift.  He indicates that this is why Father Seward must keep himself intact.  He indicates that any further inquiries about why Seward's daughter was needed should be directed to the crows that follow him.  He also indicates that he keeps Seward's passenger, Nathaniel, on a short leash these days, as he tends to be somewhat violent when not kept on said leash.

With no further questions — at least none he will answer — Cobb takes his leave, allowing the others to return to civilization however they may, likely by pterodactyl.


One final note: toward the end of the session, Ollie noted that he fell in with Bella and her associates because he was out of work.  He used to work on the railroad in Denver, but the company shut down and people started whispering evil things about them, so he couldn't find any work.  Cue awkward hemming and hawing, because we totally don't know anything about that.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Maim Cabinet

For the curious, I'm still alive.  It's been a little while since I've posted anything that's not a Deadlands replay, so here's what you missed:

I've mentioned a Spelljammer game a couple of times, and it has already begun.  (Watch this space for updates if you're into that sort of thing.)  Anyway, since this is first-level characters in AD&D, I decided to make a hack to make combat slightly less deadly, but at great cost.

So You Should Probably Be Dead

As soon as a character hits 0 hit points, that character typically dies.  (A variant rule lets characters survive up to -10 hit points, with critically wounded characters worsening by one hit point per round until death.)  This rule exists somewhere between those two.

Under this rule, when a character hits 0 or fewer hit points, that character can still be revived as long as a would-be healer gets to the character within one round.  (Keep in mind that AD&D rounds are a minute long, so that should be plenty of time; the DM can modify this as necessary.)  As long as any healing brings the character above 1 hit point, the character is revived.

Of course, it's not that simple.  The character took a shock that most people would not survive, and in fact, that probably required magic to save you.  You should be dead.  As such, you probably took a serious, permanent, and crippling injury.

As such, any character so revived needs to roll his or her System Shock percentage (DMs who don't use System Shock may take a CON check or a saving throw vs. death or whatever appropriate check you can contemplate instead).  Success indicates that hit points are healed, the character is revived, and everything is okay.  Failure means that the character rolls 1d20 on the Injury Table, below.  Negative hit points are applied as modifiers to the roll below, so a character at 0 hit points takes no penalty, a character at -1 hit points takes a -1 penalty to the d20 roll, and so on.  Simple, right?

Injuries on the table below can be healed by way of a regenerate spell or local equivalent, when appropriate.  (These injuries probably also disappear on subsequent resurrections, as well.)  The DM is the ultimate arbiter for what is required to heal such an injury.  (Likewise, the DM can always a declare a character beyond saving through this method.  Death from poison, massive damage, decapitation, and suchlike are viable choices.  In such case, only raising the character from the dead will work.)

Roll 1d20:

20: Only a Flesh Wound: No further injuries beyond hit point loss.
19: Lingering Scars: No real mechanical injuries, but the character suffers from chronic pain.  She can probably predict when it's about to rain with reasonable accuracy.
18: Disfigured: Your scars are significant enough to influence people's opinion of you.  Take a -1 reaction adjustment penalty.
17: Broken Limb: Randomly determine a limb.  That limb is broken.  A broken arm prevents the user from using that arm for anything and temporarily removes 1d4 Strength from the victim.  A broken leg reduces the user's movement speed by half and temporarily removes 1d4 Dexterity from the victim.  Lost ability points return at a rate of 1 per week assuming the limb is completely immobilized.  Failure to properly rest the limb while it heals assesses a permanent -1 penalty to all actions with the limb (and improperly healing a leg means that the victim always treats her encumbrance score as one category worse than it actually is for the purposes of determining speed).  Assuming the limb heals properly, it is thereafter treated as a Lingering Scars result.
16: Gelded: The character's reproductive organs are damaged, and the character is now sterile.
15: Injured Larynx: The character's larynx was injured.  The character cannot talk above a whisper, and cannot shout.  There is a 10% chance that the larynx is injured beyond any use, meaning that the character cannot speak (only making quiet, rasping noises) and cannot cast spells requiring verbal components.
14: Aphasia: The character has difficulty communicating with others.  Lose 1d4 Charisma.
13: Delirium: The character suffers from chronic confusion.  Lose 1d4 Wisdom.
12: Brain Injury: The character suffers from intelligence loss.  Lose 1d4 Intelligence.
11: Injured Spine: The character suffers from balance issues and loss of coordination.  Lose 1d4 Dexterity.
10: Gut Wound: The character suffers from a devastating wound to the torso.  Lose 1d4 Constitution.
9: Bad Back: The character suffers from a muscular dysfunction.  Lose 1d4 Strength.
8: Missing Eye: The character suffers from a -1 penalty whenever depth perception is a useful element (such as melee combat), and a -2 penalty whenever depth perception is vital (such as ranged combat).
7: Ruptured Eardrums: The character is totally deaf.
6: Maimed Limb: As Broken Limb, but the condition is permanent.
5: Blindness: The character loses all eyesight, acting as if in total darkness.
4: Punctured Lung: The character loses 1d4 Constitution, and has difficulties with exertion.  Overland movement is half normal, and any period of strenuous physical activity (maybe a minute or so) requires a Constitution check or else the character loses a round catching her breath.
3: Damaged Heart: As Punctured Lung, except a failed Constitution check requires an immediate saving throw vs. death or else the character suffers an immediate and fatal heart attack.
2: Retrograde Amnesia: The character loses a level.  Experience points and hit points remain, but the character acts in all other respects as if she were one level lower than she actually is.
1: Coma: Your character revives, but falls unconscious immediately.  Assuming proper care and nourishment, the character can make a Constitution check every 1d8 weeks.  Failure indicates the coma persists, while success indicates the character awakens.  A character loses a number of ability score points equal to the number of weeks spent in the coma.  These points should be taken from random ability scores, as determined by the DM.
0 or below: Death: Your character is dead.  A generous DM might rule that, since you were revived and died again, you rouse enough in your final moments to give some final words to your would-be savior.  A grim confession?  An enigmatic statement?  A touching memory?  The choice is yours.

A Note for 4e Fans: Parties interested in grievous injuries for 4e should consult the Less Death, More Danger! article from Dungeon 204.

Second Note: One of the resources consulted for this post was this Giant in the Playground forum post for 3rd edition house rules regarding maiming.  It talks about wounded characters in general and has a much simpler injury table than is recorded above.

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